By ANDREA WEIGL
Raleigh News & Observer
November 30, 2005
Virginia Gov. Mark Warner granted clemency to a killer who was scheduled to be executed Wednesday. That means North Carolina's execution of Kenneth Lee Boyd, if it proceeds, will be the milestone. Boyd is set to die by lethal injection at 2 a.m. Friday at Raleigh's Central Prison.
Boyd, 57, was convicted in the 1988 shootings of his estranged wife, Julie Boyd, and her father, Thomas Dillard Curry, in their Rockingham County home. Prosecutors say Boyd shot his wife nine times in front of two of his children, pausing to reload.
Boyd's chances for a reprieve rest with the federal courts and with Gov. Mike Easley, who is considering clemency. Earlier Tuesday, the N.C. Supreme Court and a federal district court refused to delay Boyd's execution.
"It's a disturbing comment on our country that we're ready to execute our thousandth human being," said Boyd's lawyer, Thomas Maher of Chapel Hill. "My hope is that the courts will take this case seriously and the governor will take this case seriously."
An Easley spokeswoman, Sherri Johnson, said the governor will treat this case no differently than any other. "The governor gives every clemency case careful and thorough review," Johnson said.
Craig Curry, whose sister and father Boyd killed, said the execution should be carried out.
"He's responsible for what he did. He needs to be held accountable," Curry said from his home in Stoneville in Rockingham County.
In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the death penalty as unconstitutional, ruling that states meted out the punishment arbitrarily. By 1976, some states had rewritten their death penalty laws to conform with the court's decision. Executions resumed the next year when a Utah firing squad killed Gary Gilmore.
Texas leads the nation in executions since then, with 355; North Carolina is seventh, with 38.
Boyd is the third inmate on North Carolina's death row scheduled for execution within a month's time. Steven Van McHone and Elias Syriani, whose children's pleas for his life won national media attention, died this month.
On Tuesday, Warner granted his first death row clemency - to Robin Lovitt, 42, who was convicted of killing Clayton Dicks in 1999 during a robbery at an Arlington pool hall. Lovitt's hope for exoneration was lost when a court clerk destroyed the murder weapon, scissors that might have borne biological evidence.
"The Commonwealth must ensure that every time this ultimate sanction is carried out, it is done fairly," Warner said in a statement. "The actions of an agent of the Commonwealth, in a manner contrary to the express direction of the law, comes at the expense of a defendant facing society's most severe and final sanction."
By late Tuesday, North Carolina prison officials had not discussed whether to prepare for a larger-than-usual group of protesters for Boyd's execution. Death penalty opponents stand outside the prison on execution nights.
Death penalty opponents expressed disappointment that North Carolina would garner national attention for such an event.
"The world is watching. How embarrassing and tragic for North Carolina it would be to execute the 1,000th person in the modern era, especially given the broad support for a temporary suspension of executions," said Stephen Dear, who heads People of Faith Against the Death Penalty.
Dear called Boyd's case "emblematic" of problems with the death penalty in North Carolina.
Maher had pleaded with the governor to have mercy on his client, whom he described as a soft-spoken, hardworking Vietnam veteran with no prior criminal history. Maher said Boyd had been drinking and was struggling with the failure of his marriage when the murder occurred.
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